Saturday, May 30, 2009

Many Happy Returns

Seven years ago today (has it really been that long?!) my grandmother, Emily Barry Connor Miller, died. I was lucky to have all my grandparents around until I was almost 21--I still have two--and Granny was extra-special. She was kooky and sentimental, loved the Kentucky Wildcats, and got upset whenever she was losing at cards.

She'd been in the hospital for several days, and I remember she "waited for me" to return from college at the end of my junior year. Dad thought she was doing so poorly (i.e. not recognizing people) that I shouldn't even go see her, but the day after I got home, he called home after visiting her on his way into work, and told me she was lucid and I should go see her--it might be my last chance.

I went to see her, and she was happy to see me, but mainly just laid there quietly. I prayed out loud and sang to her, and cherished those special moments. I remember at one point, she called out, staring at the foot of the bed and saying "Oh God, oh Jesus, oh God!" She was not a swearing woman, so I always wonder what she was experiencing at that moment. I remember thinking it might be the very end right then and there.

That night, I was driving home from a friend's house when I passed the hospital, and thought about going to visit her again. I decided against it, though, since it was late and she was probably asleep; plus I had said my goodbyes that morning.

After several hours sleep, I woke to the phone ringing (around 5am, perhaps?) and went downstairs to my parents' room, knowing, of course, what the phone call had meant. "They said her heart rate has dropped dramatically, which means imminent death," my mom told me as she got dressed. We got in the car and went to the hospital, finding her deceased but still lying in her bed, with all cords and monitors removed. We told her goodbye, and left the hospital just as the sun was coming up. We decided to go to breakfast at Cracker Barrel, that being one of the only restaurants she ate at regularly, along with Hometown Buffet :0)

When we returned home, we saw the day lily my dad had planted the year before blooming for the first time. This variety of day lily is called "Happy Returns," and blooms every year around the time of Granny's death. Cuttings from that lily by my parents' mailbox in Louisville now also reside in New Orleans, with my uncle and his family, and in Clarksville with Matt and I.

Just as its parent plant does every year, my branch of the "Granny Day Lily" (planted within the last year) bloomed this week.

I went out to enjoy it with my daughter, Katharine Barry--(middle)namesake of dear Emily Barry, who we will always remember fondly.
I'll close with my Dad's words about this memorial bloom:
"When we returned later that morning and pulled into the driveway, we saw that the daylily had bloomed for the first time. The bright yellow blooms of “Happy Returns” were like Granny’s bright smile welcoming us home. From that day forward, I have referred to it as Granny’s daylily. It is always the first of my daylilies to bloom and it blooms longer than any of them, as well. Like Granny’s bright spirit, no matter how many times I divide it to share with others, it comes back strong."

Friday, May 29, 2009

House Tour

Welcome to anyone who's popping over from Kelly Stamps' blog (www.kellyskornerblog.com)! Kelly has been doing a series called "Show Us Where You Live Fridays," and today is nurseries/kids' rooms. Kelly's daughter Harper is just two weeks older than Kate, so it is fun to watch Harper grow and compare the girls' skills, habits, and hair accoutrements (if you've ever visited Kelly's blog, you know what I'm talking about--she is a hairbow fanatic!)

I joined the house-tour extravaganza this week by linking to this post, since I did a tour of Kate's nursery when we first finished it. Kelly's already done kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and guest bedrooms, but this is the first time I've contributed, and probably will be the only, since most of our house is cluttered with random junk and/or baby paraphernalia right now, or just doesn't represent our style (i.e. the living/dining room that is furnished with parsonage-provided furniture. It's nice stuff, just not what I would pick out myself.)

So anyway, if you need home decor inspiration, check out Kelly's Korner every Friday. (And if you need baby fashion inspiration, visit any day of the week :0)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Little Heartbreaker

Kate and I went up to Louisville for Memorial Day weekend, enjoying a nice visit with my grandparents, hanging out with my parents, and worshiping in my home church Sunday morning. Kate sported my favorite eBay find yet--a navy Gymboree number I got for five bucks. (It kind of looks like she has an earring in this picture--I promise she doesn't.)
Matt drove up after church, and Sunday night we had some family friends over for dinner. Joyce and my mom became friends back in 1981, when Lindsay was a baby and Mom was pregnant with me. Lindsay and I were friends throughout our growing up, and were especially close during our late elementary and middle school years. We don't get to see each other that often, but it's always great when we do! Now that we're both mommies, we have new experiences to connect over, and Lindsay is my "older and wiser" voice of mommy wisdom.
Joyce and Lindsay met Kate when I had her in Louisville in early March, but this was the first time Kate and two-year-old Jack would meet. He was enamored with her! It was so cute. We couldn't keep him away from her! He kept patting her and giving her toys, and even holding her hand across his high chair tray.



We don't get up to Louisville as often as I would like, but it's always fun, and I look forward to play dates like this for years to come!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Learn the Globe

I received a review copy today of a new book from Westminster John Knox called 99 Things to Do between Here and Heaven. I admit I rolled my eyes when I first saw it. The cover is a little cheesy (especially given that “stand in a field with your arms outstretched” is not one of the 99 things) and I was unsure of the concept. Having now leafed through it a good bit, I have to say it looks awesome, and I think I’ll try to use it to prompt some new spiritual endeavors.

Some, I’ve already done, like “observe Ash Wednesday,” “gaze at the night sky,” and “read the Bible from cover to cover,” Some I’ve done but have never assigned spiritual meaning to (like “give blood”) so next time I do, I may read that page of the book and use its reflection prompts to sort of “pray the experience,” reflecting on the healing and life-giving value of the blood and praying for those who might receive my and other people’s donations.

One item that may sound odd as a spiritual exercise is “learn the globe.” I was really happy to see it on there because this is actually something I’ve been doing lately with great spiritual intentionality. Matt introduced me to a website called sporcle.com (tagline: Mentally Stimulating Diversions). It is basically a website full of timed quizzes challenging the user to do things like name all the presidents, all the books of the Bible, all the Kentucky Derby winners, etc., as well as more pop culture type things like name the actors that played certain guest roles on Friends, and name all the historical and cultural items rattled off in the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” (I can actually do that, by the way. My dad walked me through the lyrics to that song once to raise my cultural awareness, and it was actually very helpful in a couple history classes in college and grad school!)

Sporcle also has map quizzes, which I have always enjoyed and been pretty good at. I had U.S. state flash cards as a kid and in high school memorized the placement of the Scandinavian countries with the mnemonic “New Shoes Fit” (Norway, Sweden, and Finland, from west to east). Sporcle’s Europe map quiz is fun for me because I can do it pretty easily. Couple the fact that I’ve traveled over there numerous times with Americans’ natural western orientation and European countries come pretty easily. I still miss things like Andorra and San Marino, but I don’t feel too much shame in that since they’re so tiny they don’t even show up on the map!

Recently, though, I’ve made it a discipline to do the Africa quiz over and over, trying to learn the names of these countries we so easily lump together in our minds. Sure, we know Egypt and South Africa, but can we point to Uganda or Burundi? I want to do this to increase my global awareness. I was starting to feel like if I haven’t even heard of a country or can’t find it on a map, it means the people who live there don’t really matter. I’ve improved a lot in the last couple weeks, going from being able to name 24 out of 53 to 29, then 33, and now 44! Places like Benin, Comoros, and Cape Verde still generally skip my mind, but I’ve now got Lesotho, Seychelles, and Guinea-Bissau (ones I originally didn’t know at all) down pat.

Making myself more aware of at least the countries’ existence—even if not their cultures or languages—helps open my heart and put a little bit more of a face on some of God’s children that are often overlooked.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A year ago tonight...

... I learned I was pregnant.
Matt was away at the church retreat, so I had to wait a whole 24 hours to tell anyone--it was excruciating, as you can imagine! We weren't trying, so I just took the pregnancy test on a hunch. I literally paced around the house for an hour or more (after going out and buying the pricier pee stick, just to make sure) just saying "Oh my gosh," and "holy crap." That was "holy crap" in a good way, of course, because I was very excited. It was just unexpected!
What a year it has been, though! Going from this--
to this--May 10, 2008-- (my cousin Allison's wedding, when we were pregnant but didn't know it)
to May 10, 2009 (my first Mother's Day, with a 14-week old daughter!)--

How amazing it is, and how blessed we are!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Working Motherhood

Tomorrow marks three weeks since I've been back at work, and it's gone much better either Matt or I expected. I expected to feel sad and guilty a lot, and to constantly wonder if I should be staying at home full time. Matt (since even before Kate was born) expected and feared that I would get angry with him every night because of the time my long commute takes away from my time with Kate (since our residence is determined by his job). Fortunately--and I must admit, surprisingly--I have felt very happy these last few weeks.
The first night and second morning were the hardest. I returned home after that first day back, and felt so guilty, like I was shirking my motherly duties (which, I suppose, some people would say I am). It was so hard to leave her the next morning. But this "new normal" quickly came to feel, well, normal! I get up at 5:30 each morning to pump, feed Kate, and get ready. Then, I cuddle with Kate a little while longer before I leave, "chatting" with her about her plans for the day, and telling her I can't wait to see her that evening.

If I didn't enjoy my job, this would be a nightmare. If I "had" to work for the money, I would resent every moment. (I'm not saying I don't "have" to work--I probably do, but we've never calculated it, since I do enjoy my job so.)

Matt has been amazing through all of this. He's a fantastic father, and for the time being is Kate's primary caregiver during the day. She will be attending three days a week a brand new day care center that doesn't open til the beginning of June, so in this intermediate time Matt is balancing his pastoral duties and full-time fatherhood. The stereotypes that go into parenthood could be the subject of a whole other post (and hopefully will be soon). To give just a small glimpse into Matt's daily reality now, consider these two conversations he has had while out in public with an infant during the day:

random stranger: "Babysitting today?"
Matt: "No, parenting."

unnamed clergy colleague: "Being Dad today, huh?"
Matt: "I'm Dad every day."
unnamed clergy colleague: "Oh, really?" (thinking he was now permanently a stay-at-home dad)
Matt: "Even if I weren't with her during the day, I'd still be Dad."

Every day, I look so forward to the couple hours I get to snuggle and play with my girl when I get home from work. Tonight, she was cranky and tired (been up past her bedtime three of the past four nights) and went to bed less than an hour after I got home. It's a little sad, but it's also just life. This is our life, and it is full of love and joy. I look around the family room at the toys my baby and her daddy played with during the day, and the lovely days of my maternity leave, in which I was home with her all day long, seem like a distant memory. I honestly have to work to recall that feeling, that memory of the sunny afternoons we spent together, kicking and cuddling and cooing.

How can three months fade so quickly to the back of the mind?
How can three weeks suddenly seem like they've always been?

This is our life. It is different than it was, and it is different from how some people seem to think it should be, but it is happy and it is wonderful.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Morning Joy

I wanted to share the adorable smile-and-wriggle-fest we witness every morning when we go to get Kate out of her crib. I took a similar video a couple weeks ago, but it was too dark in the nursery and you couldn't really see Kate. This time, my intro is dark and backlit, but you can see Kate just fine, and that's what really counts!

I feel so lucky to be mommy to this little cutie!

video

Friday, May 08, 2009

Orientation

Someone sent me this little story today—“A Newborn’s Conversation with God”—and I thought it was just precious. Matt doesn’t believe in the notion of Platonic pre-existence (the idea that our souls existed prior to our earthly existence and were put into a body at birth)—I don’t know if I believe it theologically or not, but I like the idea, and I like to joke that Kate and other babies had a “pre-birth orientation” teaching them how the world works before they got put in their mommies’ bellies. Enjoy.

A baby asked God, "They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?"

God said, "Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you."

The child further inquired, "But tell me, here in heaven I don't have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy."

God said, "Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel's love and be very happy."

Again the small child asked, "And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don't know the language?"

God said, "Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak."

"And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?"

God said, "Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray."

"Who will protect me?"

God said, "Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life."

"But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore."

God said, "Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you."

At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, "God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel's name."

God said, You will simply call her, "Mom."


Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, mother-in-law, and all mommies out there!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wordless Wednesday--Fussy Faces

[I tried to schedule this to post on Wednesday, and apparently failed]



I can't wait

"I can't wait" is a phrase I've begun to expunge from my vocabulary lately.

I've always been a past-and-future sort of person: very reminiscent about years gone by and constantly daydreaming about the future. I've always had trouble just living in the present. I idealize past stages of life, forgetting how tumultuous they really were at the time. I make elaborate plans (in my mind or on paper) for how future events will happen, then get upset if they don't turn out like I envisioned. Matt laughs at how I'm always excited about the next season of the year. Sometime in June, I start getting anxious for fall, my favorite season. Once the leaves have peaked, I start saying "I can't wait til Christmas!" Pretty soon into the new year, I start longing for the warmer, longer days of springtime.

It's the same with seasons of life. Throughout my dating years, I couldn't wait to get married. Maybe this is because I always loved old-fashioned things, and Scarlett, Melanie, and Catherine the Great all married young, or maybe it was because my parents got married at age 21, the week after they graduated college, and I just assumed it would be the same for me. (Either way, I am determined to help Kate avoid that marriage-obsessiveness!) Once I was married at age 25, I got all excited about babies, even though I had matured enough (finally!) to know we should wait a couple years for that.

Now, I daydream about how precocious Kate will be as a toddler and about all the soccer games and school programs we'll attend in years to come. But I always stop myself. Kate has already grown and changed so much in these three months. I don't want to wish away a single day of these precious times. They'll fly by too soon on their own.

I can't wait?

Yes, I can.

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